Halo: Seed of Orion (Prologue)
Posted By: Wolverfrog<Wolverfrog49@Hotmail.com>
Date: 1 July 2009, 9:39 pm
Umbra was what they called him. It wasn't his real name of course, but it was the only one anyone knew him as.
Not much was known about the head of the Office of Naval Intelligence; searches on computers, even the ones with top level access, would yield no results. If you fed a composite of his face to the UNSC data banks, there would be no positive matches.
He gave nothing away when spoke too, thought Doctor Catherine Halsey as she nervously awaited his verdict on the files she had given him. A blank face devoid of any emotion. His hair, usually covered by a plain, navy blue cap, was completely shaven, as was his face.
His age was near impossible to discern as well. He had pale white skin, evidence of him spending all of his time indoors; scouring file after file. From his raspy voice, and a cold, steely glint to his blue, void like eyes, he could have been as young as Halsey, or as old as her Grandfather.
Halsey studied his features constantly throughout the silence as Umbra read, attempting to catch a shift in his features, perhaps a slight frown as he read. But she saw nothing, he could have been made of plastic.
As the minutes crept by, and as the boredom set in, and Halsey found herself glancing around the office of perhaps the most powerful man in the whole of the United Nations Space Corps.
He had very few personal affects, she noted with little surprise. Nothing that would give away any sign he had a private life. No photographs of a wife or kids, no medals, nothing. She found it unlikely that a man like this would ever have a family, but he could be an entirely different person outside of this room for all she knew.
The thing that caught her eye was the large motto above Umbra's head, on the far wall. Engraved in a huge golden plaque were the words "Semper Vigilans." Halsey sub-consciously translated the Latin - Always Vigilant. The motto of ONI.
Underneath the motto was an equally imposing logo, which was also affiliated with ONI. A circle within an upside down kite, the kite imprisoned within a circle, which was in turn encased within another circle. Halsey suddenly realised she was looking at an eye, with the words "Office of Naval Intelligence" clear on the rim of it. Remembering all the security cameras she had been exposed to as she journeyed deep into this room under the Reach CASTLE facility, Halsey deemed the logo apt.
"Well." A hoarse, emotionless voice stated simply, bringing Halsey's attention back down to him, Umbra.
"Is everything in order sir?" Halsey asked of the shadowy man nervously, unable to keep emotion out of her voice as he managed to.
"It seems sufficient." He replied slowly. "I do hope you have chosen wisely though Doctor, this operation is costing the UNSC a lot of money. And if word of it leaked out to the public, the effect on morale would be appalling. You will keep everything under control." It was not a question, or at least Halsey assumed it wasn't. It was difficult to tell.
"I promise I will sir. Permission to carry on with proposed plan?" She usually wasn't so formal with high ranking officers, often it was the other way around, with her being the one respected. But Umbra had a presence which stripped you of any and all confidence.
"Permission granted." Umbra rasped, handing Halsey back the papers. "You are dismissed Doctor."
At his word, two ONI guards came in through the automatic door, their faces hidden behind reflective visors. Umbra hadn't called, and so Halsey wondered how the guards had known when to come in. A button, she assumed.
She knew what was coming, and did not struggle as they tied a blindfold around her eyes. The location of Umbra had to remain a secret, after all.
"Oh, and Halsey?" He called after her as she was led out of the room by the two guards.
CHAPTER ONE : Strangers from ONI
Another drizzly day in Manchester, David thought as he climbed out of his car, locking it behind him. He took a step back and admired it with pride. It was an AMG 2510, very rare and known for it's reliability. Made and provided by the company he worked for, AMG Transport Dynamics.
A droplet of water ran down his back, and David swore at the tingling sensation. He turned his gaze from the car and quickly hurried into the building opposite him, holding his black, leather briefcase above his head as a makeshift umbrella.
The revolving doors of the building glided along the carpet as he walked through them, and instantly David was thrown into the warm reception area of his office. He straightened his tie hastily, and strode over to the receptionist, Kiara.
"Good morning Mr. Hendel!" She greeted with a warm smile, cheerful as always.
"Nothing good about it. Have you seen the rain out there?" He replied, brushing some of the water which lingered on the face of the brief case onto the carpet.
"Ah well, you're inside now. Now stop moaning and get up to the board room Dave, Mr. Smith is expecting you."
David grumbled as he walked to the elevator, annoyed that he had been robbed of his chance to do some early morning flirting. At thirty years old, Kiara was only a few years younger than him, and cut a striking and impressive figure. Perhaps one of these day he would ask her out for a Coffee. But for now he was content being single. The ache from his late wife had yet to fade.
The button pressed, the elevator came down instantly. David stepped inside, stretching his arms out behind him. He had a long way to the top, so listened to the news on the radio.
"Another Insurrectionist attack has been launched on Eradinus II." A women began in a crisp English accent. "Whilst the forces there were able to hold off the attack, concerns have been raised about the level of protection the UNSC is exercising in the outer colonies. Witnesses report..."
The radio cut off as the elevator reached the top floor, and before stepping out, David scowled to himself. Damn Innies, they were hampering humanities progress throughout the stars. It almost made him feel like rejoining the Corps. Almost. But David would never forget what the UNSC had done to him.
He'd quit the marines long ago, a short time after his wife had given birth to a son, and promptly died afterwards. He'd experienced the horror of losing a loved one, and simply couldn't bring himself to fight the rebels any more, they each had a family who loved them, cared for them, and grieved for them when the unstoppable forces of the UNSC mercilessly killed them.
Luckily for him, he had a friend who knew someone within AMG, so he wasn't put out onto the streets. He now owned a home on the outskirts of Manchester, away from the busy ports and traffic. The £25,000 annual salary he collected as lead marketing director in Manchester wasn't bad either.
It all came with a heavy price though, especially when he was called to board meeting such as these. He couldn't stand the board members, they were all stuck up snobs. Yet still, he had to put up with it for the sake of his job.
David walked across the Persian carpet lightly, and moved forward in the lobby of the top floor, the show room. He reached a terminal, and a hologram of a young women appeared. An AI.
"Good day Mr. Hendel." The Artificial Intelligence greeted warmly, a digital smile on her face.
David regarded the AI with a wary expression, he knew that everything he said was being monitored.
"Morning Rachel." He replied, taking care to use the name she had chosen for herself.
Rachel was a so called "Smart AI", although in AI terms smart and dumb meant different things. For example, even a dumb AI was smarter than the average human, capable of performing tasks far beyond the capabilities of the human mind.
Smart AIs were the next step up however. Each one was essentially a super computer in its own right processing wise, but they possessed something else too. A personality. They could love, hate, think freely, do what they wanted. Of course, they had some laws programmed into them, but mostly they were given a free reign.
Which was why, after around seven or so years of service, a Smart AI would learn to much, and eventually realise that however much it wished to, it would never truly be human. It then sunk into a deep state of melancholia, where it became depressed and looked upon the world with a dark view, then anger, where it would be aggressive towards its creators. The third stage was jealousy, where the AI in question would be envious of the people it served.
The final, theorised stage of rampancy was named meta stability. No examples of this occurring had ever been shown, AIs tended to shut down earlier than that. The theory though was that at this stage the AI would be like a true person, free to do whatever to wish. It was widely believed by many to be a ridiculous thought however, how could a machine ever become like a human in all but body? Preposterous.
"You seem tense Mr. Hendel. Would you like me to book you in for a treatment at the spa later?" Rachel asked, slightly concerned by the expression upon David's face.
"No no, I'm fine. Thanks for offering though. Am I okay to go in now?" He replied hastily, wiping a new sheet of sweat from his moist brow.
Rachel's expressions seemed to go blank for a few seconds, presumably while she contacted the board room.
"Please, go right in." She spoke haughtily after a few moments. "And try not to mess up like last time Mr. Hendel."
David gave her a cold look before picking up his briefcase and walking down the corridor to the double doors which opened into the board room. He hesitated outside, taking a few, long, deep breaths, and entered.
Without looking at the penetrating gazes of the four people who made up the board executives, he quickly moved to the front of the room, and, opening his briefcase, drew out a small, wafer thin laptop.
After taking a second to plug it to the large Holo screen at the back of the room, David loaded up the presentation, hit the full screen key, and stood nervously. He couldn't believe that he, once a renowned Staff Sergeant in the corps, was getting anxious talking to a bunch of business men.
"Glad you could join us today Dave, we love hearing about how the marketing side of the business is doing."
That was Mr. William Smith speaking, head of the Manchester AMG branch. He was old, around sixty or seventy, but due to advancements in anti - ageing technology, he didn't look a day older than forty; with his black hair and smooth, tanned skin.
"Ahem, well, yes." David awkwardly said, trying not to get annoyed. He hated the way Smith called him Dave, it wasn't like they were pals who went out for a drink every night.
"The new ad for the Civilian hog is receiving mixed reception," He began, elaborating with his fingers as always, "The current war is unpopular to say the least; people don't like the idea of driving something advertised as a decommissioned Warthog; in my opinion, we should drop the war aspect from it and proceed to sell it as a Jeep, nothing more." David explained, bringing up a slide showing how profit had dropped since the new advertisement.
Smith leaned forward, a slight frown in his gaze.
"That advert cost a lot of money to make Dave, are you suggesting we just drop it?"
Keep your cool David, he thought, don't let him psyche you out.
"Actually sir, yes, I am. I'm aware of the cost that was needed to create the advert, I thought it was a nice piece of work, it appealed to the marine inside me; but the general public aren't too happy with it. What I suggest is that we --"
He was cut off as his pocket vibrated, and a tune played. David's stomach sunk as he realised he had forgotten to switch his phone off. With a pained agony, he brought out the phone from his pocket and saw the caller was his son's school. Odd, David remembered giving him a pack lunch this morning. The boy had probably fallen over or something.
"Mr. Hendel, you know the rules on mobile phones in meetings." Smith spat with venom. "Would you please turn the infernal device off before I have security throw you out."
David contemplated on pressing the off button, but for some reason he wouldn't. It was like an instinct."
"Please sir, it's my son's school calling. He's only six years old. I'll literally be one minute." He pleaded, then turned away and brought the small phone up to his ear. A female voice issued from the other end.
"Mr. Hendel, is that you?" A voice he recognised as Dawn's, the head teacher at the school.
"Yes, it's me. Now what's wrong? I'm in an important meeting here." He hissed down the line, glancing back at Mr. Smith quickly. The man was drumming his finger's on the mahogany table, a look of malice in his eyes.
"I'm sorry Mr. Hendel," She apologised hastily, " But I thought you should know that three men have approached your son on the playground. I don't know who they are."
A look of disbelief crossed over David's face.
"What? Why haven't you called the police then?" He inquired worriedly.
"I was going to, but they flashed badges at me when I asked them what they were doing. They looked pretty official, Office of Naval something or other."
Fear clutched at David's heart.
"Naval Intelligence?" He asked, already knowing the answer.
"Yeah, that's it. They had copies of his reports and everything. At the moment they're just talking to him, I don't know what to do Mr. Hendel."
David swore loudly down the mouthpiece. ONI was bad news. His vulgar outburst caught the attention of Mr. Smith.
"Is there a problem Dave?" The man asked dispassionately. David somewhat rudely held up a silencing hand without even turning around.
"Mr. Hendel? Is something wrong? Do you know these people?" Dawn asked worriedly, and he could hear her breathing, short and rapid.
"Dawn, listen to me. I'm coming right over. Don't approach those men, keep the other children away from them." He spoke in an assuring voice he hadn't used since the days he commanded a squad.
"Wh-What do you mean? Are these people dangerous?" She asked frantically, her voice rising a few octaves.
"I'll be right over Dawn." He stated, then hung up.
"Dave, what's happening?" Mr. Smith asked curiously as David turned to face him again.
"I'm sorry sir, but something's come up involving my son. I need to go." Dave told the chief executive, already moving towards the door.
"What? No Dave, you can't leave. Dave, stop moving towards the door. Dave, if you leave now then you're fired!" Smith shouted after him. David turned around one last time.
"Consider this my resignation then arse-hole."
The door slammed as he left.
David rushed out of the lobby, and made towards the elevator. He heard Rachel behind him give a gasp of surprise as he ran past her, his suit and tie flailing behind him somewhat comically.
He jumped in the elevator, and hit the G button on the panel. G for ground floor. David impatiently bounced from foot to foot as the slow box travelled downwards. A million questions were surging through his mind. What the hell did these ONI officers want with his son? Was it something to do with what had happened that day eleven years ago?
Finally, the metal doors slid open, and Dave stepped out hurriedly, only to bump into a rather large security guard. David groaned out loud, clenching his fists in preparation.
"Mr. Smith called ahead." The large guard rumbled. He was easily a foot taller than David, perhaps more. "He didn't appreciate the way you spoke to him before, said he wants me to bring you back to him. I'm sorry about this, but hey, I'm just doing my --"
"Stand out of my way." David spoke in a deadly quiet voice. The Security Guard laughed, and remained where he was.
"Are you trying to scare me short stuff? Well let me tell you something, I'm gonna -- oof!" The guard was interrupted as David's fist swung into the side of the guards face, sending him sprawling to the ground.
The guard was obviously in shock, he hadn't expected to even be touched by the marketing director, never had he dreamed he would have been nearly knocked out by the blow.
Before the large man could right himself again, David grabbed him and tossed him into the elevator behind, smashing the man's head against the mirror inside. He then reached over and ran his hand over every button inside the elevator, and old prank which would make the guard have to stop at every floor in the building before finishing his journey.
David then looked down at his arm and saw that it was covered in the guard's blood. He cursed silently, then remembered his son and moved quickly towards the exit of the building.
"Oh my God Dave, you're covered in blood!" Kiara screamed as he ran past her. "Dave? Where are you going? Dave?"
He didn't acknowledge her, which made him feel bad, but he couldn't afford to get into a conversation at a time like this.
He looked at his AMG 2510 in dismay; it was reliable, but not fast enough. He looked further down the road, and saw what he had been hoping to see. A motorbike was sailing along the carriage way.
Without wasting a moment, David rushed out into the road in front of the oncoming vehicle. He heard the man driving it swear, as the screech of breaks sounded as he tried to avoid David. Whilst the man was swerving on the bike though, David grabbed the man by the shoulders and yanked him off, using momentum to throw him on some grass a few metres away.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!?" The motorist shouted at him as David boarded the bike. "Hey! That's mine arsehole!"
"Sorry!" David called back even as he revved up the engine of the bike. He started up the engine, and flew off down the road, his tie flapping manically in the wind.
Why couldn't ONI just let him get on with his life?